Public Release: 

The hopes and reality of young people in Bradford

Economic & Social Research Council

A study of young people and their entry into work in Bradford as part of the major 'Cities Programme' funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) throws important light on the current situation in the city.

Professor Charles Husband, from the Ethnicity and Social Policy Research Unit at the University of Bradford, whose research was into the patterns of youth entry in the Bradford labour market, found that many young people from ethnic minorities were happy with Bradford. They saw the once-famous textile city as "a socially benign multi-cultural environment in which a good life can be created", says the study. And it was the young people from the Pakistani community who particularly demonstrated a sense of pride and loyalty to the city.

In a city where half the Pakistani population, the largest ethnic community, is under 18, and where the minority ethnic communities include small African-Caribbean, Bangladeshi and Indian communities, as well as east European communities, the report notes that: "Disadvantage and exclusion have given the minority ethnic communities strong reasons for being self-consciously aware of their identities". And that: "differences within, as well as between, ethnic communities are becoming expressed in territorial boundary formation within the city".

This has implications for a willingness to be mobile in seeking work, as well as for ethnic relations in the city. "In some areas of high stress, these territorialised identities have a potentiality for inter-group conflict and violence".

The research was conducted into young people's aspirations and experience of work, and comprised several stages:

  • a cohort study of nearly 3,600 Year Eleven pupils which looked at their aspirations and expectations in relation to their educational attainment and where they would go in the labour market
  • interviews with people who had left education
  • a sample of 125 people aged between 20 and 25-years-old
  • focus group interviews with young people in vocational training
  • interviews with 40 employers in a range of industries

Students were found to be mostly positive about their school experience and more than 60 per cent of the pupils in Year Eleven were looking to college or other higher education establishments. While they were positive in this respect, they were also realistic about their prospects in the labour market, with 70 per cent thinking it likely that they would work part-time at some point, 24 per cent expecting a period out of work, and 59 per cent thinking they would have a temporary job at some stage.

But Professor Husband comments that "there may be significant differences between knowing what to expect and being adequately prepared for the reality". Gender and ethnic identity were important in having an impact on young people's hopes and beliefs.

There is evidence of high levels of 'churn' in the local labour market with young people having many short-term jobs. There is then a contradiction between the employer's expectation of an 'enthusiastic and flexible' workforce and young people's understanding of themselves as an easily disposable resource. There is a basis for a growing incomprehension between these two perspectives.


For further information, contact Professor Charles Husband at the University of Bradford. Tel: 01274-232323 Email:, or, contact Lilian El-Doufani, Lesley Lilley or Karen Emerton in ESRC External Relations on 01793-413032, 01793-413119, 01793-413122.


1. The ESRC is the UK's largest funding agency for research and postgraduate training relating to social and economic issues. It has a track record of providing high-quality, relevant research to business, the public sector and government. The ESRC invests more than £46 million every year in social science research. At any time, its range of funding schemes may be supporting 2,000 researchers within academic institutions and research policy institutes. It also funds postgraduate training within the social sciences, thereby nurturing the researchers of tomorrow. The ESRC website address is

2. REGARD is the ESRC's database of research. It provides a key source of information on ESRC social science research awards and all associated publications and products. The website can be found at

3. The project formed part of the ESRC Cities, Competitiveness and Cohesion Programme. Further details of the Programme can be found at

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